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County budget reflects growth, Hyundai
Bryan County

Bryan County’s entire budget in 2022 was $73.2 million.

That was before Hyundai. Next year, in 2023, the county’s budget will weigh in at more than $266 million, according to a proposed budget released in late November and up for approval in December.

In the meantime, it’s clear a comparison of county budgets from 2022 to 2023 isn’t apples to apples.

The bulk of the 2023 budget, more than $220 million, is in a special fund to pay for speeding up infrastructure improvements such as roads and water and sewer for Hyundai’s Metaplant America. The company hopes to begin building electric vehicles at the plant as early as 2025.

In addition, the revenue to pay for Hyundai-related infrastructure improvements isn’t coming from local property taxes. It’s instead coming from state funding, though Hyundai will begin making annual payments as well in what economic development officials are calling “leasehold ad valorem property tax payments.”

The first of those payments, some $12.696 million, is due when initial construction on the facility is complete.

And while Hyundai’s $5.45 billion investment in the Mega-Site and its promise to bring 8,100 jobs to the area has turned Bryan County into what County Administrator Ben Taylor called the “epicenter of an impending economic boom for Southeast Georgia,” it makes the county’s 2023 budget look entirely unlike the one that preceded it.

Hyundai aside, the rest of the county’s 2023 budget – it’s countywide and unincorporated service funds – adds up to $44.6 million, up about $6 million from 2022. That’s due to a combination of increases in county employees for the court system, Bryan County Fire and Emergency Services and Bryan County Sheriff’s Office, as well as additional vehicles ranging from ambulances to squad cars, fire trucks and work trucks.

The 2023 budget also provides for cost of living adjustments and raises for full time employees, and ads Juneteenth as a paid holiday.

Taylor, in his budget transmittal letter to commissioners, made note of the fact “our entire coastal region is growing and our government neighbors are experiencing the same needs and difficulties expanding their delivered services. At the heart of this is the need for human capital.”

Among TSPLOST or SPLOST projects on tap for 2023 funding include $2.2 million in road improvements, $4 million for the Wilma Edwards Road and Highway 280 intersection; $1.5 million for the Bryan County Co-Op project; $1 million for the Cranston Bluff, Belfast Keller widening; and hundreds of thousands of dollars for storm water improvement.

Additional projects include a $500,000 pedestrian bridge project at Brisbon Road; $300,000 in improvements to Oak Level Road and Highway 144; $500,000 for a new building for public works and water and sewer; $800,000 in updates to BCES stations and $150,000 in engineering costs for a new pistol range and training center for Bryan County Sheriff’s Office.

Though spending is up, the county lowered its millage rate again and was the only local taxing authority to do so in 2022. The county, though hiking its water and sewer rates by 4 percent, isn’t raising its fire fee or solid waste fee, which are $220 and $180, respectively.

Instead, it appears growth – Bryan County is the sixth fastest growing county in the U.S. – is largely funding the county’s increased spending. The 2023 budget assumes $1.2 million in additional property tax revenue and 20 percent increases in the amount of Local Option, Special Local Option and Transportation Special Local Option sales taxes collected, while permit fees are expected to climb by 280 percent.

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